3 UNC System Board of Governors members denounce plan to move UNC offices to Raleigh

Three members of the UNC System Board of Governors voted Thursday against a plan by the General Assembly to move the system’s offices to downtown Raleigh, raising concerns about the cost of the plan and a lack of transparency in how it became law.

The state budget law requires the system staff to move from Chapel Hill to Raleigh by the end of this year at a cost of $15 million over four years. Lawmakers tucked the plan into the final budget bill without public discussion.

The Board of Governors voted Thursday to give UNC System President Peter Hans authority to approve a lease for office space, with three prominent Republicans on the board voicing their dissent.

That included remarks by mega-donor Art Pope, perhaps the most influential conservative in North Carolina politics. Former Republican state representatives Leo Daughtry and John Fraley also spoke against the measure.

“It is my opinion that the move from here to Raleigh was done purely on the basis of politics,” said Daughtry.

“The reasons to do this seem to be lacking,” said Fraley, “This move is going to cost us a lot of money that we really do not have to spend.”

“The simple fact of the matter is, we have space here. It’s not costing us $15 million over the next four years to continue here,” Pope said. “That’s $15 million that’s not going to be available to meet the needs of the people of North Carolina in general, for education in particular.”

Pope also took issue with the lease the board committee on budget and finance discussed in closed session this week. While he said he couldn’t release details, Pope raised concerns that the lease terms and rental structure of the available property don’t meet the specifications of the budget law.

“Addressing this additional issue, it makes trying to fit a round peg into a square hole with a very convoluted legal structure and transactional structure which lacks accountability and transparency,” Pope said.

“When I say ‘lacks accountability and transparency,’ I don’t mean just to the general public but to us as the board of governors,” Pope said. “We had to ask and request additional information, because as the board of governors we’re not directly entitled to it.”

Chair of the budget and finance committee Jim Holmes reminded fellow members before they took a vote that the move is required.

“I’m not going to speak to whether I agree or disagree because in my mindset today, that’s not really relevant. We have a law,” Holmes said.

UNC System spokesman Josh Ellis said the details of the lease will become public record once it is fully approved. He also confirmed this is the only vote on the relocation that will go before the full board.

Clarification: Some on-air reports of this story referenced a state budget allocation of $100 million. That amount has been allocated to the General Assembly to study and design a possible state government complex for multiple state education agencies.

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